Of all the places I have ever lived, our house on Welcome Drive was the most full vessel of memories in my life. I have lived in a few different places since childhood, but nowhere else do the details of where I used to live so stick. I can still tell you my old address and even my first phone number without missing a beat. Am I alone in this?
With as many subsequent phone numbers as we've had, being able to recall the first seems rather odd. Try and remember all your previous phone numbers. See how hard it can be. 12808 Welcome Drive, San Antonio, TX 78233 was the old address. View it on Google Earth. That chimney visible from the road, that driveway and wooden window posts...dad put those on there himself. If you sent me a postcard in the 80s, it would come to me at this address. If you could jump in a time machine and head back to make a call to me at any date prior to August 6, 1990, you'd have to call me at this number: (210) 653-8526. I'll confess that as I wrote this article, I couldn't resist the urge to call the old number just to see who has it now. A damn automated answering machine picked up.
So many memorable things happened inside that house, from unwanted enemas to large belt buckle butt whippings, from first porn video viewings to my first spooch rag to go with. One of the more memorable things outside of the welcome drive house was a steep hill with a yard to a house directly across the street. This was 1984-85. Brother was 7 and I was 11. Our friends Brian, Brandon, and Tommy were only 3 houses down. We met up regularly and the place we played was the yard across the street, the yard on the hill. The game we most often played was only one among a few games that didn't involve social ridicule or peer pressure to smoke or fear of the ditch people. It was called "King of the Mountain." Most kids have played it that have access to each other and a hill simultaneously.
There were only two rules: 1) Get to the top and throw down anyone getting in your way, and 2) stay on top while everyone else tries to throw you down. And that's it. The only reward for winning is your pride. I never won. My little brother Eric did better than I did, all things considered. He wasn't afraid to be tackled or get a slight concussion from being thrown down and hitting his head against the curb below. I still loved the game, a few skin burns notwithstanding. But none of us were king of the mountain because the kid whose parents owned "the mountain" was king of the mountain. His name was David Holmes. He was 17—and a big 17. Thankfully, he didn't compete that often, and of course, he never needed to.
Holmes was held back twice in school, making him extra big and brawny for a somewhat stemmy, thin guy. But speaking of "held back," Holmes was his own social "hold-back" force. The kid was a degenerate, one our parents could see right through and weren't fond of us hanging around. But what the heck...we'd never go further than just across the street to play, so they never really complained. This awesome tiny mountain, this teeny, weenie-but-aspiring foothill, this was the place we had our best time ever as we were allowed to play King of the Mountain during the great snowstorm of 1985.
Yes, it's a real event. Google it. In San Antonio in 1985, the city got over 4 feet of snow and it stuck around for nearly two months at below-freezing temps. We built a 9-ft-tall snowman in our yard and another on the hill and did enough sleigh riding on it to crack two tailbones in one day. I remember the morning I loaded up on hot chocolate and charged upward to claim my prize. I was the first one tossed on my ass. Snowball fighting, well, I was a little better at that.
After those great times, Holmes quit letting us play in his yard as often, and pretty soon, not at all. His parents never cared one way or the other. It was his decision. His character went from stupid, clueless, self-interested loser to completely dickish in a hurry. He suddenly quit being at home as much, and even his parents didn't seem to know where he was.
Pretty soon, things start turning up missing at home. My brother's skateboard, and then a volleyball, basketball, and a jar of quarters we kept on the hutch in our den. Holmes never came inside very much, but he had his opportunities to swipe a few items when he did, which we soon knew could only be him.
Holmes was from Nebraska. The kid had been in and out of boarding schools for a while. We knew he was trouble, just not this much trouble. Holmes provided us our first taste of being overly embarrassed at a true, raging idiot. We get home from school one day and catch him skateboarding down the big hill adjacent to his house—with my brother's skateboard. He had plenty of time to hide it before we arrived. He didn't because he thought he didn't need to. We run into him, and same as always, he is spitting loogies while finishing off a crumpled bag of Ruffles, and saying: "What's up!" in his lazy sort of way. We stare at what we notice to be my brother's skateboard!
It makes sense now. He stole it and thought he could get away with it because Holmes was a freaking moron. No wonder he never had much to say, and no personality whatsoever. It takes a while longer to notice stuff like that when you are a kid. Now it made sense; Holmes was stupid as hell. He threw some neon green paint on the front of the skateboard and carved a large "X" across the front and took a guess we kids wouldn't know any better. That was because he wasn't smart enough to know any better himself.
We stood there and pretended not to notice at first. At first, he made no attempt to explain the similarity between his new board and our old one that somehow went missing at exactly the same time his “new” one showed up. When he finally saw us staring too long, he said: "This board looks like your old one, but it's not. There is a x on it and green paint. See?" He said nothing else, and we were too scared to say anything else with regard to calling him out on his pot plant-level IQ for low-profile thievery.
OK, so he's stupid and a thief. We promptly tell our parents, but they decide it's not worth doing anything about. Mom and dad weren't confrontational, even back in those days. I think we got a "He'll get what's coming to him soon enough" response and a warning to steer clear, which we did, despite being pissed and wanting our stuff back.
Over four months pass. The hot summer now in full swing, we were having fun in other ways, with other friends. But we still never forgot about the hill. Four months is a long time for a kid to go without playing on it. There were just too many good times there before the Holmes family moved in, like when we first sat on it and placed a “boys only” sign at the top and taunted the “yucky” grade-school girls who walked by on the street two summers earlier: “You can't come up here!” we would say. “We don't want to come up in your stupid yard, idiots.” they would holler back, walking away. This was the same hill where little Raymond Sosby tried to do a running jump-kick to knock down his older opponent, but ended up a crying mess before us all on the street. His kid was the mayor's kid, but we never got more than a talking to from mom about the whole episode. Like I said, too many good times.
One bright and hot Saturday morning, I remember being woken up by dad. Bro and I both were both hauled out of bed. Saturdays were no excuse to not work outside in the hot sun alongside dad just because school was out; and so we did. Dad kept us busy all day, folding and snapping tree limbs and taking them out in bundles to the road. It was an all day job, which didn't end until mom came out with glasses of sweet iced tea and said we'd done enough. She always wore that light pink, cotton shirt on the hottest days. She made a cake for us, too, and a pitcher of lemonade.
We finished the limbs project. By the evening, dad was mowing, and by then, we didn't even want to go in. We played in the cut grass paths as dad made them in the yard with the mower. Even the bugs seemed to make different sounds in the summers of our youth. We played with sister, barely one year old at the time. It was nearly magic to watch this tiny child try to push a beach ball in the front yard as she laughs hysterically when it rolled. Then mom takes her in for the night and dad settled down with a large Mason jar of tea to watch Saturday Night Shockers like he always did.
That left brother and I outside and bored. What started out as a great day seemed to want to end in a night of frustration. We sat on the back of mom's '81 Ford Escort waiting for some friends to come by, listening to the symphony of locusts and bugs in the trees. None of our pals ever came. Then we noticed Holmes and his new tramp date exit the house. The porch light came on suddenly and the two, holding hands, made their way to the awesome hill to look up at the stars together. These girls Holmes would hang around with weren't exactly looking “yucky” anymore.
Seeing this irked me terribly. That was our hill, the one we had so many good times on, and Holmes - that crooked, stupid thief - was sitting pretty on it with some girl who looked older than him and who could drive! Oh, the indignity! I wanted him to pay! Now we were banned from the great mini-mountain, and then robbed, and now this?! My eyes veered left at that pile we so tirelessly brought to the curb that day...when it hit me. I said: "Eric, follow my lead, and whatever you do, stay down!" He had a confused look on his face, but he went along.
We made our way, ducking and kneeling, to the amassment of limbs and branches. Our brows once again hot and sweating as earlier in the day, we watched through the truffle of twigs, the smell of gasoline still on our hands. We could hear our own breathing. All was quiet until I let out: “GO TO HELL!”
I tried to make my voice deeper and scratchier to sound like an older kid. I had no idea how good a job I did. I figured, we'd make a run for the house if he called us out, but he didn't. Their giggling with hands held stopped. They got quiet and listened, obviously startled. Holmes yelled back: “WHAT THE HELL? WHO'S THAT? WHO'S THERE?”
And I let out another: “HEY, DICKSUCKER! FUCK YOUR MOM! EAT MY SHIT!” He got up and looked around. She looked around and the two exchanged words. They really can't tell where it's coming from, we realized. “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?” he says, getting a little closer this time. We hide by positioning ourselves deeper within the brush in case he comes into our yard. He stops and goes back.
Then I yell: “FAGGOT ASS FUCKING FAGGOT FUCKER! FUCK YOUR MOM AND FUCK YOUR DAD!” He starts getting angry. More huddled words between them, and then she starts getting scared. She ups and leaves. He says: "Wait, come on!" or something similar. More arguing as they retreat, and that's the end of his good time! He looks around one more time at our yard and others and then goes back in. Success!
And it was double-success since barely a month after this, Holmes broke into a sporting goods store, got caught, and was sent back to juvenile hall. This gloriously outspoken night, laced with sucker-shot profanity, was the last we ever saw of David Holmes. The lesson should stand out in all of our minds like a larger version of that little mount we claimed dominion of: I may not have been king of the mountain, but I was the king of my own mind. And sometimes the greatest satisfaction comes just from speaking it.